I was just a child · Lessons I'm learning as a survivor · My experience

My heart is burned on my arm… 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My heart is burned on my arm…
It’s on my left arm above my wrist. It’s shape, is that of a heart with an arrow thru it. How appropriate.
Some have thought it to be a tattoo that went wrong – it is not …it is a scar.

It is a symbol. It is a reminder. It is my legacy on display. It is a big part of my story. It is my silence, my pain, my joy , my fear, my strength, my loneliness, my individuality… It’s better than a tattoo as I didn’t pick this to have put on my arm… It was a result of my reality as a child that is there and it is permanent.
Sunday morning breakfast. My Uncle who adored me…an visited infrequently…was at our house. My father, mother and brother were all eating breakfast in the kitchen.
We had a micrwave. One of the first microwaves available. It was so new to people that with the purchase of a microwave, there were free classes offered to teach you how to use it. We had all gone to the class.
We were most impressed with the microwave, because it could heat water in a cup, in 1 min, to boiling. Beat having to fill up the hot water pot on the stove and waiting 5 min for it boil.
I had put a cup of water in the microwave. I wanted a cup of Postom… A coffee like beverage that we as children were allowed to drink. Pushed the button for 1 min of time, and waited. The microwave did its thing and rang the bell when it was done. The door to the microwave opened from right to left. I opened it and reached in with my left hand to get the cup, which was full of hot steaming water. I grabbed the cup, and at the same time the door to the microwave swung back towards my arm, causing me to spill the water on my arm.
Hot boiling water hit my arm wetting my white Oxford shirt sleeve. It hurt but I didn’t say a word. I flinched but didn’t yell or scream or react. Somehow in a matter of seconds I had processed that showing a reaction wouldn’t be good. (Apparently I this is something I must have learned)
I took the cup, sat it on the kitchen table by my plate, and sat down to finish my breakfast. My arm is on fire! I can’t believe the pain! I excuse myself to the bathroom so I can look at it. Once in the safety of the upstairs bathroom, I unbutton my sleeve and take a look at my arm -the skin has already started to swell. It hurts like hell. I run my arm under cool water … It helps a little but as soon as I stop, the severe pain is back. I use wet toilet paper to wrap my arm where the burn mark is and I wet the paper so as to help with the pain… Button my sleeve, and go back down to breakfast. Over the remainder of breakfast, I will have excused myself a few more times from the table so that I could check my arm. I even put butter on it. That set my world on fire, the pain was so bad.
The burn was severe and goes through all the stages it had to go thru to heal… I’m not sure how long it took… A few weeks?? but I hid it from the family the entire time…
One day my mother noticed. Asked me what had happened to my arm? I do not remember giving an answer but somehow one got developed…better than any lie I could have come up with on my own.
My parents put together that it was a tattoo that I had let someone put on me and there were chemicals in it that had scarred my arm Wow! Apparently the heart shape helped them develop this reasoning …. Problem solved.
I got punished for letting someone “tattoo” me…by my mother.

But the true punishment I didn’t understand until later in life…
When I was grown I had another instance of pain that was an accident … I had used a hot curling iron to curl my hair. It started to fall off the dresser… I grabbed it by the hot curling barrel to prevent it from falling…. It hurt like hell! I got dressed and went to work. At the time I was working as a sign language interpreter in a school. My hand blistered… I worked all day that day… Went to the emergency room after work was over… That’s when I was enlightened…..
That current injury to my hand was a first degree burn … The scar on my arm was shown that it was most likely a second degree burn.
Now, here is where I started to understand the level to which I had been taught and punished as a child….
Pain! Somewhere, somehow I had learned that I wasn’t allowed to show pain. My pain was embarrassing. I was embarrassed to show it.. To tell someone. I didn’t want to be seen as not strong enough or that I was stupid because I couldn’t handle the pain. So I would hide it and often mentally beat myself up if I cried because something hurt.
I had a second degree burn on my arm that was caused by an accident and I never told the people who should have been there to take care of me… All because somewhere somehow I knew that telling of my pain was worse than enduring the pain of the injury. I endured the original pain, then the pain of the supposed lie “tattoo” and the pain of the punishment of the lie…
My tears had no value!
What my mother had done to me caused me to know my tears had no value! OMG how those words hurt now reading them and knowing the depths of what that means and ment for me as a child growing up… Now as an adult!
Fast forward to today. Old habits die hard. I don’t like people to know of my weaknesses. I don’t like people to know of my pain. If I’m feeling bad…I still try to hide it… Trust, in these moments, is still tough. But at least I’m aware, and I try to use words to let people – who I care about, understand when I’m hurt or not feeling well. I am a work in progress.
I learned my survival method by the results that I got as a child…
What survival methods did you learn?

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